make it a double

We sat down at Amici 30A Italian Kitchen a few days ago and discovered in addition to our fantastic waiter (with awesome blue hair) and delicious options on the menu, their drink menu was superbly accommodating.

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Several of their hand-crafted cocktails could be made into mocktails as indicated by a symbol on the menu, and cost a few dollars less than their alcohol-infused versions.
I pointed it out to Jessep and we both smiled so big, super stoked, and couldn’t decide which one to order, so we ordered a couple over the course of lunch.
In all the places we have enjoyed together here by the beach, this was the very first restaurant that catered to those who live that sober life.
And not just force-fed bland non-alcoholic beer, or virgin daiquiris… but a variety of mouth-watering, fresh juices and homemade syrup cocktails.
We wouldn’t be left off the train to Flavortown just because we have 86’d alcohol out of our life. In fact, in our eyes, we are rewarded.

Out and about, I have typically ordered a tonic & lime with a splash of cranberry. I’ve gotten confused looks from our waiter, as if they are waiting for me to say “with Stoli.” I’ve even had one say, “No alcohol, right?” Right.
There is a great drink menu posted at the HUB, and I sheepishly ordered one of their mixed drinks sans liquor. The bartender obliged, and when I asked if they had non-alcoholic beer, he apologetically shared with me he had been trying to get some in-house for years. Still nothing.

We couldn’t stop talking about this menu filled with non-alcoholic libations.
How cool is that?!
An enticing drink menu that didn’t leave us out.
I love fancy cocktails and drinks. I love big, muddled flavors and fresh herbs and simple syrups, fruit garnish and gorgeous glassware. I want it all. There’s not many places, if any, that will know what to do when you ask for something “non-alcoholic” but not… a coke. No… not that.

We wanna have fun but…. not the inebriated fun. Capisci??

Sometimes its hard to NOT feel like you are in permanent vacation mode here by the beach. Even in those nose-down, hustle-and-bustle days…
We live by the beach.  A stunning one. People flock here all throughout the year to break out of their own hustle and settle by the sea for relaxation. Vitamin sea does a body good.

With that… naturally… there is no shortage of “happy hour” specials, events and rubbing elbows and schmoozing revolving around kicking back and relaxing with some good booze.  Of course the beer flows like wine around here. Alcohol, after all, helps us “let loose,” escape, reprieve, and relax. When you think of beach, more times than not your mind goes to popping a bottle or some cans and sticking your asses in the sand.
And even when the low tide of out-of-towners hits, the local liquor specials keep rolling.

Well, out of all the men in the universe, I met this really special guy JMag who had more than 10+ years of sobriety under his belt and it’s gotten me thinking. A lot. More lately, along the lines of, “Why not me?”
The first time we met up in Toledo, I told Jessep, knowing his lifestyle choice, I really didn’t have a desire to drink in his company at all. So why should I? It didn’t mean that much to me. I was totally capable and willing to leave it at the door out of respect for him. And really, out of respect for me.

He ordered me wine at the bar we ended up having our first date at, anyway.
Maybe as an icebreaker – he knew I liked my wine, maybe to set the tone and in keeping with our promise to have zero expectations, maybe in making me feel comfortable he could feel the same. Maybe a little bit of all the above. But, I did drink in front of him a few times since we’ve met. It didn’t bother him, didn’t bother me. I never got obliterated or sloppy, he has and had no reason to give me major stink-eye about it.

But my moment in the sand came when he wasn’t even here, he wasn’t around.
After several open conversations about his own story of overcoming addiction and the role alcohol played in his life, I always came to the same conclusions about alcohol…
I’ve never, not once, had a night of drinking and wanted to high-five myself the next day. “YES! All that alcohol was FANTASTIC!!!! I’M WINNING AT LIFE!!”
Alcohol has never solved any of my problems, in fact, quite the opposite… has given me more. Or more to think about.
It hasn’t improved my ability to cope with my grief. In fact, quite the opposite. Made me feel worse, and created isolation and inhibited me from being brutally honest and truthful about how I was really feeling at the time. Depressant, suppressant…. much?
It accompanied me, which was typically 1-3 times a week, on the nights I felt lonely, which was every night of the week.
But ultimately began suffocating any real and true growth that could bring me far and away from grief and loneliness.
I lost my husband, and I was cradling my grief with empty wine bottles.
I wasn’t putting anyone or myself in immediate harms way, leaving my girls to go partying at the bars or clubs, or even meeting up with friends to unwine-d. I would retreat at the end of a day to my couch. Just me. And my living room. After the girls had been put to bed.

Up until August of this year, I was enjoying my wine. Some days.
Most days, however, I found myself drinking alone to the bottom of a Kim Crawford bottle.
Not necessarily finding any comfort in my solitude.
The clear pattern revealed itself… the more I drank, the sadder I became.
It was inevitable, I’d crush some Sauv. and tears, big griefy alligator tears, would be streaming down my cheeks by the time I was ready to slither into bed. I did this, alone. I’d pour sadness right back into the bottle as sure as it filled me up with the wine. I was filling up with a depressant, and as quickly as I was filling my glass, I was expressing my loneliness in tears.
Quenching the grief monster’s thirst.

I cooked myself a delicious dinner and was sitting down to eat it by myself.
I poured myself a glass of White Zinfandel, took a sip off the top, sat down, picked up my fork and began eating. I took another sip. Another bite. Looked around, and just started balling my eyes out. Eating a yummy meal, I had wished I was sharing with someone else. Sharing meals with my love was… something I looked forward to, my love language, sharing an experience with someone, my someone is so important to me. And it hit me like a tidal wave, as it always did. And the wine, leaning into a depressant, was sucking the joy right out of me. Go figure. The girls were upstairs and I was alone.
I got up from the table, poured the rest of my goblet of wine down the sink and emptied out the entire 1.5L bottle, less one glass, and called it a day. No mas. That’s been it.

I decided to take a break. I wasn’t making this life-long, beating my chest declaration and swearing off alcohol and #SOBERLIFE-ing myself,  I know better.
What makes the most sense to me is I know its a walk, not a sprint. Its a “one day at a time” exercise. I won’t make any promises but more importantly to me and myself: no expectations. That has served me well.
I just needed to take a minute.
Sometimes I need minutes from situations, people, places, LIFE… I know myself well enough now to know, I just needed a minute from alcohol.
Simple: I’m already a grieving widow and the shit makes me even more sad, and frankly, makes my body feel like 3-week-old garbage. Period.
I’ve just not answered the call to go hang out with it again.

Lucky for me, the universe abides, my person I am with has not either.
And as much as I haven’t thought I needed it, and could do it all on my own… his own stubbornness and conquered addiction has helped me through doubt and frustration and guided my confusion through, “should I drink, or should I go?”
He is not my reason I cut myself the break, but he is the reason I understand why and how I continue to choose not to choose it. My healing needs me. Needs me sober, and ready to face my issues and fears and anxieties full-on. No inhibitors. No masks. No hiding. Let it all rise, up and out.

We didn’t realize, and probably didn’t want to even admit, how BIG this subject was to us and how fired up we felt until we started unraveling the WHY we’ve been given our paths and how we are continuing them.

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The ugly truth from the gutter is, our lives have been touched very negatively due to the effects of alcohol. Both of us have been witness to people close to us who’s lives have been touched very negatively due to the effects of alcohol.
The worst effects of it one can experience, death.

We are living with the effects of choices made with alcohol every day, by our own hands and others. We didn’t know how we would, but, in sharing truths… it hurts, it hurts to talk about, it inspires fear and tears but we know, we were brought together to share this. Because we’re still alive to tell it.
It’s important.
And we are not holier than thou, we have and make our jokes about drinking like the rest of them. But, as of today and this moment, its just… not.been.worth.it.

Jessep obviously has quite a different perspective on all things alcohol because he’s had a different journey with it…

With the holidays approaching it’s time for the parties, drinks, and families gathered around the tables. For someone like myself, this time of year can be filled with feelings of uncertainty. Not knowing who’ll show up to the party, if someone doesn’t know about my choice of sober living over the past decade, or the monotony of explaining why I don’t drink.

At times I feel like I’ve isolated myself from many things I once enjoyed.
I was taught early on in my sobriety not to entertain the idea of glamorizing alcohol.
Maybe there’s been an underlying fear that if I hung around people that drank, I’d eventually relapse. I’m not sure. Not until recently have I even wanted to explore this sacred space within myself.

Caroline has a way of reminding me this life is short. Her spirit radiates, and makes you want to enjoy all the things. With her the fear dissipates. Together we enjoy the experience, wherever it is.
I’m realizing it wasn’t really the alcohol that made the event great in the past.
When the smoke settled after those “gatherings” back in the day, there was typically guilt or shame involved. And the people even, most of which have become acquaintances, faded away over time.

With her its different. She understands and shares some of my fears.
Together we’re sifting through heartache but creating a lifestyle, a safe space, that we’re proud of.
Alcohol never gave me the freedom I chased or desired it to give me. The letting go, the euphoria, came with too many restrictions, too many consequences.
Without the alcohol, there is added accountability that I have to have for myself and actions, and creates a different type of thrill.
It is a risk I take not being able to hide behind a substance or a mask. The real and authentic me has to show up to every situation, whether I like it or not, without any enhancements or suppressants.
When Caroline and I are together and we go have mocktails, we truly are enjoying each other’s company, the true, unfiltered taste of the experience we are creating together. We aren’t there for any specific motive other than the experience and time together we are having. No expectation. When I would go out to the bar, there was the expectation I would get wasted, escape the bondage of self.

When we are out having our mocktails, there is an overwhelming joy that we are creating a moment with each other that neither one of us will feel guilty about, neither of us are putting anything – our well-being, health, family – at risk of loss. Nothing is jeopardized. The reality is, we are still in the same places we were before, we just aren’t inviting any alcohol. It’s refreshing that we can go enjoy pizza and a mocktail and Caroline won’t be sad about being widowed and start crying, or I can go pick up my kid from school and not be risking a DUI. This would be our exact scenario if we invited alcohol to the table.

Everything we have been through, as sad as it is, and individually hard to deal with, we are very lucky to have each other.
I feel very fortunate now, to be able to do the things I feared.
I used to not be able to even entertain the thought of going to a bar, and enjoy my time.
I was paralyzed.
I never thought I would have an opportunity to sit in a bar environment and feel totally content and at ease again in my life.
With Caroline, what I am realizing is it can be a bar or Burger King, she makes me feel safe. And I don’t have to have seven drinks to open up to her, or to feel confident, or be intimate with her. Caroline is naturally providing me with what alcohol used to do.

We can bust our ugly parts wide open to each other, and others.
Some of the biggest ugly moments and obstacles in my life, I created, but she has a way of showing me that, “Maybe I am okay. Maybe there’s a different way of handling this.”
She calls bullshit on the old ways of thinking, yes we can do the same things we used to and still enjoy life.
No one has to know we don’t have alcohol in our glasses.
The victory is, we leave without risking anything, no one is the wiser. We don’t have to shout it from the rafters, WE’RE FUCKIN SOBER! We just do it. Live it. Share our truths. And keep living.

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Both of us drank with a purpose, a detrimental purpose. And I would never have found happiness submerged in a depressant. Caroline understands this life can be taken away in the blink of an eye. I don’t need to explain myself to her, she gets it.
Being unapologetically asinine together lit up is one thing, but doing it sober is worth a million bucks.

Make it a double.

– caroline & jmag

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2 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this. Until this post I’ve never heard of a “mocktail.” I’m very interested in these! I’ve struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for several years now. I was sober off alcohol for 2 years before I said, I think I can handle a drink now! I still couldn’t….I want to drink several times a week but I tell myself NO! Been clean of meth for about 7 years now!
    I love both of your posts! They make me smile and know just how happy someone can make you, and how one big change can alter your whole life in a positive way!

    Like

    1. hi there, thank YOU, thank you… for sharing. we love YOUR post, so brave. i have the same feelings…. thinking I can handle it. i think in sharing this, these truths and feelings… we can rally our tribe, our “me, too” folks and lock arms in the struggles. hopefully you feel like your truth matters here, we are thankful you found our share but shared with us your thoughts. ❤ onward, right? the next right thing at a time. ❤ ❤

      Like

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